Playing with Fire
The United States' presidential campaign is winding down. From among a crop of many, competing for their party's nomination in the two major parties, two emerged victorious, Senator John McCain for the Republican Party and Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic Party.
Before the field was cleared of the other presidential hopefuls, the attempts at casting dispersions and doubt as to the capabilities of their fellow politicians was in full gear during the primary season.
Finally, after June 3, 2008, both candidates from the major parties turned their attention toward the now clearly identified opponent.
For weeks, they sparred, throwing verbal jabs and punches, some connecting, others not quite hitting the mark. Now, as the general election looms near, things have taken on a sinister pall.
During the primaries, Senator Obama's citizenship, his childhood, his upbringing, his affiliations, his faith, all topics becoming the subject of constant rumor and innuendo, so much so, in the final weeks, an ugly tone has gripped the audiences of the McCain-Palin campaign.
As they listened to their party's candidates restate the allegations, in nuanced detail, members of the crowd have uttered comments that have no place in American politics, in a few instances, calling for the death of Senator Obama.
Governor Sarah Palin has stated:
"This is not a man who sees America as you see America, and as I see America .... Our opponent, though, is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect -- imperfect enough that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. Americans need to know this. ... I think, OK we gotta get the word out ...."
Senator McCain, as he has continued his campaign, found himself face to face with his supporters, correcting misinformation, attempting to calm these crowds, even as he was booed for his efforts.
Senator McCain has begun to attempt to call back the rage generated during the campaign, which has become evident at McCain-Palin rallies, his attempts relayed in an excerpt from this article:
But when one man said he was scared to raise his unborn child in a country that might be led by a President Obama, McCain disagreed.
"I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain said to boos and groans from his supporters.
"If you want a fight, we will fight," McCain said. "But we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments. . . . I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity, I just mean to say you have to be respectful."
Later, another supporter told McCain, "I don't trust Obama.... He's an Arab."
McCain stood shaking his head as she spoke, then quickly took the microphone from her.
"No, ma'am," he said. "He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with."
Yet, efforts, by the McCain-Palin ticket, may not be enough to counter weeks of the campaign's leading question and statements like “Who is the REAL Barack Obama?”, “.... This is not a man who sees America as you see America, and as I see America ....", with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin often introduced with intoned emphasis on Senator Obama's middle name, with all utterances enthusiastically received by tens of thousands at crowds gathered at McCain-Palin rallies.
A reporter spoke to that McCain-Palin supporter, the one who believed Senator Obama was an Arab, after Senator McCain tried to dispel her incorrect belief. She told the reporter she still believed Senator Obama was an Arab.
Despite the admonition from Senator McCain, it seems his words have not filtered down to all segments involved in his campaign, as reported by Time magazine, reporting the GOP chairman of the party in Virginia, Jeffrey Frederick, a newly elected legislator, who when elected, promised ".... bold new leadership" for a state party recently on the decline ....", gave a charge to volunteers using similar inflammatory rhetoric.
From the Time article, In Battleground Virginia, a Tale of Two Ground Games:
With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon," he said. "That is scary." It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama's controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked.
When asked to respond to the GOP Virginia campaign chairman's remarks, Senator McCain seemed to reverse himself from his earlier statements, when he had sought to assure those supporters Senator Obama was a " .... decent person ....".
With all of the rumor and innuendo that has swirled around Senator Obama for more than a year, the phenomena of untruths made true through repetition has set in.
As many see the reality of the possibility of an Obama-Biden administration, their displeasure goes beyond annoyed yet, resigned acceptance.
And for some of those, feeling denied their outcome of choice, that annoyance transforms into hatred, which, in America, has always been a dangerous tool of last resort.
Also at NowPublic:
A link to the statement from Representative John Lewis of Georgia regarding recent remarks heard and the atmosphere generated at McCain-Palin campaign rallies, which reads in part:
As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.
A statement, issued in response to the statement issued by Rep. Lewis, from Obama-Biden campaign spokesperson, Bill Burton:
Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies. But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States ‘pals around with terrorists.’ As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together. That is the kind of campaign Senator Obama will continue to run in the weeks ahead.
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States